The European Central Bank is pushing Austrian bank Raiffeisen to exit the Russian market, Reuters reported on March 24.
Raiffeisen is reportedly being urged by the European Central Bank to devise an exit strategy for winding down its operations in Russia, according to five anonymous sources cited by Reuters. This exit strategycan entail the disposal or shutdown of Raiffeisen's Russian branch of operations.
A Raiffeisen spokesperson told Reuters that the bank was "expediting" its assessment of future business prospects in Russia. Additionally, some Austrian officials see the European Central Bank's push as "unwarranted foreign meddling," Reuters said.
On Feb. 18, Reuters reported that the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) was investigating Raiffeisen for its activities in Russia.
Representatives from the bank confirmed to Reuters that the OFAC had contacted it in January 2023 to seek clarification on its payments business and related processes, in light of the ongoing war in Ukraine.
The OFAC requested a reply by February 2023 but the bank's lawyers have negotiated a push back, with information tranches to be sent in early April, May, and June.
The bank said in its statement to Reuters that it is cooperating fully with the OFAC.
As Austria's second-largest bank lender, Raiffeisen plays a significant role in Russia's financial system, and is one of only two foreign banks classified as "systemically important" by the Russian central bank.
This underscores the bank's importance to the Russian economy, particularly in the face of extensive Western sanctions. Despite the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Raiffeisen has continued to operate in Russia.
In 2022, the bank generated a net profit of 3.8 billion euros, with 2 billion euros of that coming from Russia alone. Russians have entrusted more than 20 billion euros to the bank.